I looked at my wristwatch and the luminous hands pointed to ten minutes before six o’clock. That seemed about right because I had eventually left the guest house with the 04:45 pick up. My colleagues could not understand why I insisted on leaving before day break, especially considering my flight from the night before had not landed until almost midnight.
They would not understand even if I tried explaining to them, but I did not bother. I had promised Abdullah and that was all that mattered.
Two okada changes later, I was pulling up in front of the gate. I paid off the cyclist and, using my keys, let myself into the compound. As I walked past their window I called out softly “Neighbour,” I did not need to shout.
“Uncle Frankkie good morning,” his mother answered.
“Is Bubu awake?” I asked.
“Very soon,” she said. I chuckled at very soon, and then made my way to my apartment.
After her maternity leave, she had returned to work just before schools re-opened for the term. Since then I had been too busy to play school bus since my schedule had been all over the place, but when she asked me on Sunday if I was working on Monday and I said no, she asked if I could babysit Bubu till his school bus came for him. “But of course,” I had replied without any considerations. What was there to consider? I loved the little man as if he were mine and it was clear to all. We even had this thing where his mother referred to me as “My baby’s daddy” when referring to Bubu, and “My baby’s uncle” when she referred to her other son, Wareet.
Then I got to work and my other life kicked in; the worst aspects of it. My flight bagged delay after delay on every sector. We finally landed in Lagos at the end of four super long sectors of flying a little before midnight.
As I chucked off my uniform I wondered why I bothered undressing considering I would be up and out of the guest house in a few hours. I changed into the set of I always carried in my crew bag for days like this when a routine round trip could end up a nightstop away from home.
I set my alarm for 04:30, packed everything into my crew bag and my trusty backpack I take everywhere with me, then lay down. Despite my best efforts not to sleep deeply, the lights went out in my consciousness as soon as my head touched the pillow.
It must have been the need to pee, or just my internal clock but whatever it was snapped me out of sleep. I sat up straight and was looking round in the darkness wondering why I woke up when my phone alarm went off.
I scurried out of bed, splashed water on my face and brushed my teeth before joining my colleagues in the pick-up car.
About thirty minutes after I got home there was a knock on my door. I opened to see Bubu standing there dressed in his uniform looking real smart, his back pack slung over his shoulders, his lunch bag clutched in his right hand, and the biggest brightest smile plastered across his face. “Don’t worry neighbour, I will drop him off at school. No need waiting for the school bus sef.” I told his mom.
“He was vexing with you last night o when you didn’t come back. He thought you had promised and failed.”
That there, is one of the hardest aspects of parenting, if you ask me: being there for the little ones, or at least making them understand when you cannot be there.
PS: In the time since I last wrote about him, M.O.N.C has cut his first teeth and learned to crawl. Ok, a partial crawl: he goes on all fours, takes a tentative few steps toward the object holding his attention, then he stretches his fingers towards it, fingers that usually fall short. He flops down on his stomach and stretches. It’s the most beautiful thing to watch.
He has also learnt to work the female folk and he is milking this so much, I am embarassed! Wherever did he get that from?
Whenever his name is called, he darts his head in the direction of the voice – usually female – and, once he makes eye contact he smiles a smile so sweet, even my heart turns to mush. Then when I am holding him, every chance I get, I tell him how much he is loved. He looks at me with soulful eyes as if to say “Pinky swear?” In my heart, a heart already threatening to burst, I repeat the words from Sade Adu’s song ‘Babyfather’. “Dude, your daddy’s love comes with a lifetime guaranty. You can rest easy.”